It was very hard on me...and my parents...to have the public discourse & opinion be so different from our experience.
Having a 'made for tv movie' that is so different from the school environment I experienced is like having two different realities. Many treated us as if the tv movie and newspapers were the whole truth.
Our 'truth', we were forbidden to speak about because of being defendants in the case.
That was even more traumatic and tragic.
"Targets of bullying are often selected because of some immutable or other perceived difference – whether physical, behavioral, or intellectual – that is devalued. If the basis of target selection happens to be a category we recognize as discriminatory, then we also recognize bullying as a hate crime. Ironically, victims of hate crimes may have at least some chance of being less disadvantaged than other bullied victims, since in theory other members of the discriminated class may support them. When target selection is based on more subtle factors, the likelihood of support from the larger group is decreased. As a parallel to hate crimes, the bullying conduct sends a message of fear that threatens others in the community, that enhances their sense of vulnerability, and that produces a loss of faith in the fairness of the academic institution..."
Source: TEACHERS WHO BULLY STUDENTS: PATTERNS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS. Available: http://www.stopbullyingnow.com/teachers%20who%20bully%20students%20McEvoy.pdf
I witnessed one child belittled for her religious beliefs over and over as the rest of us said the Pledge of Allegience and at EVERY HOLIDAY PARTY. As IF she had ANY CHOICE.
I witnessed several classmates bullied ...for being overweight. ...several for being poor, or wearing the wrong clothes, or bringing the wrong treat, or...just not being able to read her mind and being whatever she perceived as 'wrong.'
Some of the worst of the abuse I saw was directed at children...for perceived as being gay.
I witnessed a classmate being slammed into a wall. Another, hit by a door...repeatedly.
Again...we were CHILDREN.
I witnessed teachers and staff being belittled and bullied. I was a target of some abuse as well.
"...Bullying by teachers (or other staff, including coaches, who have supervisory control over students) is defined as a pattern of conduct, rooted in a power differential, that threatens, harms, humiliates, induces fear, or causes students substantial emotional distress. Included are behaviors that any reasonable person would recognize as having a significant risk of harming students." Source: TEACHERS WHO BULLY STUDENTS: PATTERNS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS. Available: http://www.stopbullyingnow.com/teachers%20who%20bully%20students%20McEvoy.pdf
The abuse that we saw – and in some cases, testified to in court - was psychologically traumatizing by itself.
Living with the memories has been difficult.
The fact that very little of it ever made it through the wall of the sensational religious/moral/political reporting of the case (much less being entered into the court record) has made this seem now like a recurring event. It was buried. The web dug it back up and pushed it out, but without any of our experience in it.
I am hoping that sharing this will bring forth a little more balance to the scales of justice for us.
There were no winners in any of it. Except, perhaps, the production company for the movie.
"Children’s social lives — whether or not they have friends, whether they are accepted or rejected by their peers, whether they are victims or perpetrators of aggression — and their academic lives go hand in hand. This means that we cannot fully understand academic achievement without knowing about the social environment of children in school." Source: http://www.apa.org/education/k12/bullying.aspx
The avoidance (a natural response by the stressed adults in our lives) caused us as children to carry a burden of silence. It robbed me and my family of healing through witness & remembrance. I don't want to speak for others, but can't help thinking the same was true for at least some of them.
Far too many of my classmates aren't even around to speak about their experiences. Many have never told their partners and children about what they experienced then, and it is tragic that our childhoods contain such memories, but I know the past cannot be changed.
Psychological trauma ('adverse childhood experiences') in childhood is closely associated with addiction, adult obesity, anxiety disorders, personality/developmental disorders, struggles with personal relationships (divorce, parenting, etc.) and premature mortality.
"Untreated child trauma is a root cause of many of the most pressing problems that communities face, including poverty, crime, low academic achievement, addiction, mental health problems, and poor health outcomes. The cost of these problems is felt not only in human terms, but also in dollars and cents." Source: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
The financial costs of trauma based health issues is a burden placed upon medicare, medicaid, and employer-based health insurance - for those who have it now - for the long-ranging care needs of abused children.
I believe it would be much less expensive if we spent money on PREVENTION.
No movie is necessary to bear witness to the reality of how damaging that was to at least some of us. One look at the life struggles (and in some cases, early deaths) of those in our yearbook are plenty of evidence.
What is needed for healing of survivors is community witness and support.
I'm so sorry for what was done to my classmates. If any would like to share their memories on here, openly or anonymously, I invite them to.
I feel sorry for Jeanne Eckmann.
I think about her family. I hope they all lead peaceful and healthy lives. I know they were not responsible for her actions....and I do think had she received proper referral to qualified mental health professionals, everyone would have been better off.
Society would have gotten a LOT MORE out of the money spent on this.
Survivors of childhood trauma are entitled to our experience (memories, feelings, opinions) of those years, whatever it was to us at the time.
Well-intentioned persons telling abused children to 'get over it,' 'forgive and forget,'....'move on....' etc. are NOT ENOUGH when processing trauma. It requires qualified professionals to help children deal with these things
I think EVERY school should have a qualified school psychologist on staff. I believe all teachers should have free mental health care. They deserve it to help them deal with the stresses of caring for children in the current educational climate. Education now is in a state of crisis far more likely to be psychologically traumatizing to all public school employees than it is to provide good education to its students.
Healthy, supported teachers make for healthy, supportive schools.